ep. 77 on unhealthy friendships


ep. 77 | Friendship Idolatry with Kelly Needham

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Last week on the Journeywomen Podcast, Catherine Parks and I discussed how confession, repentance, and prayer deepen our friendships in the body of Christ. Today, we’re going to continue the conversation on friendship with Kelly Needham. Kelly and I talked about something that isn’t a super popular topic of conversation, but that we’ve probably all experienced on some level: unhealthy friendships. We ran the gamut on everything from common signs of unhealthy friendships to how the gospel frees us to really love one another earnestly, since love covers over a multitude of sins.

So you’ll know her a little better before we get started, Kelly first began writing and speaking to her husband Jimmy’s fan base in 2008 as they traveled together. She is a regular contributor for Revive Our Hearts, and her writing has been featured at Desiring God, The Gospel Coalition, The Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission, Eternal Perspectives Ministries, and Crosswalk.

  1. Can you tell us a little about who you are and what you do?

  2. What is codependency or unhealthy friendship?

  3. Where did this problem originate? What hope do we have despite the reality of the fall?

  4. What types of relationships can become codependent? How might codependency manifest itself in a friendship? Romantic relationship? Parent/child relationship?

  5. How can we know if/when a relationship becomes unhealthy? What things might we find ourselves worrying about or dwelling on if we are in a codependent relationship?

  6. How should we respond to someone if we sense they struggle with codependency? How should we handle situations where we feel like someone is pursuing us in friendship if they display strong codependent tendencies?

  7. How does the gospel free us of our need to be codependent in our relationships?

  8. If you’re in a codependent relationship, how might we begin to believe that Jesus is better and that he is enough?

  9. How can we best love and encourage those who struggle with codependency from a gospel perspective?

  10. What would it look like to walk forward in the freedom of the gospel and welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us?


  1. What 3 resources would you recommend for someone who wants to grow in better understanding codependency?

  2. What are your 3 simple joys?

  3. Who has had the greatest impact on your own journey with Jesus?


“There is so much hope because the thing that was irreparable, relationship with God, was repaired in Christ. I don’t know if there is anything harder to do in the world than to take sinners like ourselves and make it a reality for them to be able to engage with a God who is holy.”

“Anytime we look at another human and say, ‘you are what I need to be okay’ is the essence of this issue. We are associating our dependency and being okay with a person and not with God.”

“God used it to show me that there is something of my identity, safety, and security that you have attached to [your husband] because you lose the ability to serve him in this moment because you’re obsessing about these things that could interfere.”

“When we are spiraling, it’s a red flag to know that I’ve attached some sort of my emotional, spiritual, or physical well being to this person, and that’s not okay. They can’t bear that weight.”

“Grief is an acceptance of the loss. It is saying that I’m losing this thing, and I am going to be sad about it.”

“This is a human problem. Some of us may let this seed of sin in our hearts come into full bloom in a way that is far more severe than someone else. But I see these tendencies in my heart all the time. It’s right for all of us to talk about these things, and say, ‘I do these things sometimes’.”

“The gospel frees us because it ushers us into an unhindered fellowship with the living God of all creation.”

“There is a reason that we don’t want relationship with God. There is a reason that relationship with other people looks more appealing. To be known by and known in relationship with the God of all creation wouldn’t we all want that? Wouldn’t we want Jesus as our best friend? Why are we so slow to take Jesus up on his offer to free us from this pattern of life? There is a cost to knowing God that doesn’t exist with other people. The cost is worth it, but there is a cost. Knowing God means our sin will be exposed.”

“Because with people, we can hide. We can hide things in our hearts that others can’t see, and yet we can still engage in relationship because they don’t know our hearts. But with God, if you are really seeking him and you spend long enough in the Word and prayer, there is a light that gets turned on in your heart. And what you thought was beautiful, you look around and see it’s covered in black mold. Wow, all my motives are for myself. That is the love of God to do that because that sin is like a cancer and will eat us alive. But who likes that moment?”

“Knowing God requires us to be all about him and not ourselves. In friendships, we can get away with putting each other on pedestals and making much of one another. And that doesn’t fly with God because he won’t share his glory with another. It’s actually really good for our souls to not be the center of our own universe, and it is his kindness to dethrone us. But that’s a cost we don’t always want to experience.”

“Knowing God also requires waiting. It requires waiting on him to know him.”

“God can feel near, but it’s not immediate. There isn’t immediate gratification in our relationship with God. It takes perseverance and waiting. And there are a lot of promises for those who wait on God. And he will fulfill each one of them.”

“The Gospel does free us. The freedom we have to know God without fear of retribution through the blood of Christ is the answer.”

“The solution to all of our problems is what saints have been doing for thousands of years. We read the Bible and we pray and we meet with other believers in local churches. The answer is nothing profound.”

“Once you’ve counted the cost [of following Jesus], then pick a book of the Bible and read a chapter every day. And then talk to God about what you’re reading about him. And then go meet with other believers in a local church. And be consistent in those three disciplines, and I promise you that you will see and feel changes in your relationship with God.”

“There are a lot of people and a lot of avenues in the web-isphere that are giving us ways to know God apart from his Word, and that’s a really scary reality.”

“It’s good to remember that conflict should be in some ways a normal part of Christian friendship. Part of the function of our community, biblically, is to war together against sin. We have an obligation to speak the truth in love to one another. We all have blind spots. We all have the need for our brother or sister to say, ‘hey, I don’t know if you see this tendency in your life, but I do.’”

“My hesitation to enter into those moments is because I’m valuing my own comfort more than the good of my friend.”

“What Christ has called us to do is to love one another how he loved me. And he loved us in a sacrificial way at expense to himself.”

“When we enjoy Christ, we end up with a fountain of wellspring within ourselves. We can come into friendship not to get something out of it but to give something.”

“Jesus said that our unity and our relationships with one another would be how the world would know that he came. It would be a living stamp of approval that Jesus is real, he did come, and he did rise from the grave, and his offer of salvation is true. And we know that because those who follow him are living in such a way that there is unity and freedom and joy and openness in those relationships.”


Genesis 3

John 17:3


When People are Big and God is Small by Ed Welch

Knowing God by JI Packer

The Path of Loneliness by Elisabeth Elliot


Get updates on Kelly Needham’s Book

Episode 49 on Conflict and Community with PaToya Hall

Episode 69 on Humility with Hannah Anderson


Sitting outside

Watching her kids grow up

Reading fun novels



Discussion Questions

  1. What is the root of loneliness?

  2. How can you remember that Jesus is better?

  3. How can a Christian find hope and freedom from unhealthy friendships?

  4. What are you going to do or implement as a result of what you’ve learned this week?


Marriage After God is a weekly podcast hosted by Aaron and Jennifer Smith intended to encourage, inspire, and challenge Christian marriages to chase after God together and to cultivate an extraordinary marriage. Be sure to check out their podcast here!

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